Jan. 11, 2018 – Tech Toys

A Message from the Common Table

January 5, 2018


I hope all of you and your families had a great Holiday Season and a good New Year. We had a great Holiday dinner at the CrownPoint Family Restaurant. It was good to talk to all of you and your spouses or significant others. And it was especially good to see some folks who haven’t been around for a while. If you missed this chance, we’ll do it again soon Or you can come any second Thursday and renew our camaraderie.

At our September meeting I talked about how to recover data from a failing hard-drive and Bill B. talked about how to try to avoid that happening to begin with. I did not do what Bill talked about and on Christmas day my video editing computer crashed. I did not loose any data (I do backup my data), but I did lose the OS on the computer along with all the installed programs. If I had just made that image that Bill said we should all have. If I had that image, I would just get a new hard-drive and restore everything as if nothing had happened. What did happen is that I got a new hard-drive and reinstalled Windows 10 and now I have to reinstall all the programs that I use. This is a major pain to do.

This month we will talk about all the new tech stuff you got. You did get at least something tech related? We have a member or two that will be buying a new computer soon. We will discuss the best way to approach this task and discuss ways to get the best computing device for the money.

I will also ask you if the club would like to do a road trip to the Microsoft Store at Southpark for a look around the store. Maybe we can get a Microsoft person to give us a program while we are there?

I hope to see all of you at the meeting.

Galen Bolin
President, PCCC

We meet the second Thursday of the month at the Better Business Bureau in Matthews (directions below). Please bring your healthy bag supper and join us about 5:45 to chew the fat or come for just the program promptly at 6:30. Join us also for the Board meeting, which is generally the Tuesday after the General meeting and announced at the General meeting and in a special newsletter.

Scare of the Week

Are you having a Meltdown over the Spectre of the moment?

Those are the names of a couple possible computer risks that have hit the popular press in the last week. They are real vulnerabilities that could impact not just Windows; but also Linux, MacOS, and even portable devices. The flaw is not totally in the operating system, but is baked in the circuitry of the primary computing chips.

Details at the moment are spotty (some of what I think I know was reported before they even had the cute names); but here’s my take for now:

What does it do?

It might be possible for unprivileged malware to ascertain the contents of memory it shouldn’t have access to. This may represent data such as encryption codes like those for HTTPS. It may also give allow malware to directly use snippets of OS or applications’ code to perform tasks that would normally be blocked.

Who is vulnerable?

Depending on reports; every CPU from all major manufacturers since 2005. Or every Intel chip since 1995 – AMD products are immune.

EDIT – Earlier reports were for Intel chips only but now it looks like AMD CPUs, along with processors in tablets and cellphones could be at risk. OEM manufacturers are waiting for updates from the chip makers for fixes. In some cases a fix will require not just patches to the Operating System, but updates to the firmware of many devices. Stay tuned to your favorite tech site and check the support sites of all your devices.
In the mean time – stay safe out there!

How can I be safe?

Don’t use any computer with a chip designed between 1995 and 2020. That includes the computers at Google that power half of the internet and those at Amazon that power the other half.

Seriously, the flaws may be ameliorated, if not eliminated by making changes to the operating system. As always, ensure that you accept all the updates to your system and major apps and practice safe computing. Unfortunately the current fixes have been reported to impact performance with slowdowns that might be 1% or as much as 30%.

Should I worry?

Unlike some other highly publicized vulnerabilities such as Heartbleed (https://fromthehelpdesk.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-power-of-notoriety.html), this does impact your computer, so you should take the best precautions you can.

But don’t meltdown over this spectre. The likelihood of your having a loss is far greater from ransomware or any other phishing attack. As always, be careful what you allow into your system; both as “useful apps” or unknown links you might click. And always pay attention to the warnings your OS and browser give you before they’ll perform a risky action.

The PCCC meets at the BBB in Matthews.
Maps and directions are below.
Join us with your bag supper at 5:30 or the meeting at 6:30.

The PCCC meets at the BBB, in Matthews. The location is 9719 Northeast Parkway, Suite 300, Matthews. Northeast Parkway runs behind Windsor Square Shopping Center on Independence Blvd. The BBB is in a new office condo which may not be well marked; approximately across from Kohl’s back entrance.


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